The contemporary world can safely be called a democratic world; democracy is the form of governance in majority of the countries. In a democracy people are supreme and the interests of the people are supreme and it is this fundamental thing which separates a democracy from a dictatorship, a totalitarian regime, an autocracy or any other form of government. And, owing to this attribute , the world public opinion and the public opinion within the confines of a nation have come to play a very important role in the national politics and the foreign policies and the international politics.
Democracy literary originated in the ancient Greek city states and as such is not a modern phenomenon. However, in such states of very small geographic and demographic size direct democracy was possible. But in the modern world of large and unprecedentedly large sized states direct democracy is not possible and providing democratic rights of this kind to the citizens universally is very much difficult.
Nevertheless, some of the countries, through representative democracy, in the world have performed exceedingly well and can be described as mature democracies. The governments in these countries have acted truly as per the democratic rules and the people have reaped the benefits of the democratic form of the government. These countries mainly exist in the west; Europe and North America. People there really have a say in the governance of these countries and the way governance is conducted.
In the other countries the story is mixed, there are some that are successful democracies thus for and there are those where this form of governance has suffered utter failure. In still some of the countries this form of government has worked worse than dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. In these latter countries the governments in the guise of outward democracies has abandoned all the principles and procedures of democracy and have adopted the ones of the perverted form of the governance in Aristotelian terms.
To differentiate the well performing democracies from those that are underperforming or performing as perverted forms of governance is difficult, very difficult literally. Though both the forms of these governments boast about their democratic credentials but the less democratic and antidemocratic governments at times can be seen boasting ever more.
All the voices that are raised against the real state of affairs in an antidemocratic country are muzzled and never allowed to reach to the world. Propaganda machinery is always on to present an entirely different picture of the country to the world and the picture that is presented to the world is diametrically opposite to the one that is there in the country.
As for example if a minority is persecuted and prosecuted but there are some people belonging to the minorities who are given some posts of power and these people are presented as the role models as how the minorities are treated in the country. At times the highest posts of presidents and prime ministers are selected from the minorities to show to the world that there is no discrimination or exploitation against the minorities and the minorities in the country can reach to the highest posts.
So if questions are raised against the democratic credentials of these countries, it is but natural and there really is a problem with such governments. The problem becomes more complicated when such questions are raised about the mature democratic countries of the world. Questions now raised about the way democracy works even in some of the mature democracies of the world like the United States of America. The way governance is conducted in this country raises many questions and apprehensions.
Some people and experts have started asking questions that is democracy dying in these countries and is it in decline. To quote Yascha Mounk, Harvard University lecturer, “The long century during which Western liberal democracies dominated the globe has ended for good”. Although he says the age ended for good but I think it is no good, the world is turning more chaotic in absence the mature democracies who could be emulated and who could be the harbinger of real democracy. Decline of democracy is bad news not good.
The problems have accrued at the multiple levels of governance all the democracies of the world including the US, if not at all the levels. At the electoral level the government is not all representative and there is a majority of people who stay away from the elections and the electoral politics. The people who vote in a two party democracy get divided almost equally and the margin of victory remains narrow thereby indicating those who didn’t vote are not represented in the government. In India, a multiparty democracy, a party getting only a percentage in high 20s or around 30% of the votes polled has all the chances to form the government, a mockery of democracy in a sense.
Contrary to the real democratic values and the practices it has been observed that the ruling parties give first preference to their constituencies in distributing the benefits of the governance. Employment to the youth, sanction of various developmental programs and schemes and sanction of different social welfare programs are made in favor of the people who have voted for the rulers. If any consideration is given to the people and the constituencies belonging to the opposition it is always the last consideration.
Again this is not democratic; in a real democracy equal credence and preference is given to the minorities as is given to the majorities. But here only one section of population is given all consideration and that is the one favoring and supporting the ruling elite. The countries and people who were supposed to move towards democracy are actually moving away from it.
Another problem is the way decisions are made by the democratic governments. If we take the case of the USA, a mature democracy, it can be easily deciphered that the decisions are made as per the liking and whims of the ruling elite. The USA attacked Afghanistan on the pretext of fighting the global terrorism. It was presented in the interest of the world as a whole and that of the USA.
For the initial period it appeared so but once the curtains started falling, it was observed that there were no interests at stake and all the interests belonged to the ruling elite of the country. The heavy human and material costs that the United States suffered defied any logic that there were any benefits and interests that could be fulfilled for the US and her people by the war. The benefits were neither there at the beginning and they are not even today after around eighteen years of the war.
The US has suffered heavy losses in the war and for the costs of the war the governments that have ruled the country, are responsibly directly. A democratic government in the real sense would have never plunged in such a dangerous endeavor without making a thorough analysis and investigation of all the pros and cons of such a war and without taking public opinion into account. The government instead acted like another dictatorship, like another Hitler at the time of attacking the erstwhile USSR in the Second World War.
Though Hitler suffered the consequences and repercussions of that endeavor just in two or three years but for the USA it took eighteen years. Anyway the results are similar with only a big difference that is Hitler was defeated by an alliance of the world powers that possessed all the modern weaponry and technology of that time but the USA for many stands defeated by a power which nowhere fits in the definition of being called as a power.
The decision of going to war against Afghanistan was antidemocratic, and stands so today, to say the least for it defeated the first principle of the democratic government, the principle of supremacy of the interests of the nation and the people of the nation, both these interests have been sacrificed to save something which one fails to understand what the gain is. The disgrace that the country is made to suffer is unlike a pure democracy.
In short the threats to democracy are multiple and the world needs to collectively fight these threats. The fight should begin at the lowest level of democratic form of government and move on to the national and global levels. Only government that is possible in the current day world is democracy and if this form of government is defeated there could be anarchy everywhere and in each country. Sustainable and honorable existence dislikes any kind of anarchy, does it not?
—The author who can be reached at: fayaz.greatstep@gmail, tweets at: FayazdaaTribal